With players arriving at Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch on Wednesday to check in for 2013 Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, it already had the makings of a big day. It became even bigger when the Falcons announced the signing of their two final draft picks, Sean Renfree and Desmond Trufant, and with camp set to open Thursday, everyone on the roster is locked in and ready to roll.
Trufant arrived shortly after noon and told the gathered media he had no concern about getting his deal completed before the beginning of camp. With the contract done, the 2013 first-round pick is ready to take what he accomplished in the offseason and put it to the test on the field during training camp. Although it's the beginning of his professional football career, the rookie is reminding himself that it's the same game he's always played.
"It's just football," Trufant said. "I just have to continue to learn the system and continue to build camaraderie with my teammates and get back to the basics. I've been doing this my whole life. I'm ready for it."
The talk this offseason has been about the competition that will be taking place with the Falcons. Head coach Mike Smith anticipates the most competitive camp since he took over in 2008. With spots on the offensive line and at cornerback up for grabs, he could be right. Trufant, who is expected to compete heavily at one of the starting corner positions, said competition is at every level in football and he'll focus on the things he can control each day.
Another player expected to be involved in a camp battle is Joe Hawley. Entering his fourth season, Hawley has starting experience at center and right guard and he'll put that experience to the test this year. Hawley said the biggest challenge in training camp for veterans or rookies is the mental aspect of it.
"The physical part (of camp), everybody goes through the same thing," Hawley said. "Handling it mentally really helps you get through it one day at a time."
One player returning to reclaim a starting job is Garrett Reynolds. He began 2012 as the starting right guard before a back injury took him out for the season seven games in. He said his back is feeling good and after a positive offseason, he's looking forward to his fifth season with the Falcons.
Joining Reynolds on the "fully healthy" list to begin camp after an injury-plagued 2012 is Corey Peters. The defensive tackle was cleared to play last year in Week 8 after a foot injury, but didn't experience the kind of season he showed he's capable of in 2011. A return to normal is what Peters is looking for this year and he's excited to feel good once again.
"I feel as good as I've felt in a long time," Peters said. "I'm super excited by this season."
It's a busy day for the Falcons, but definitely one full of excitement. The day players arrive for camp always has a back-to-school feeling and was certainly the case Wednesday as the team looks to turn last year's playoff performance into a Super Bowl run this year.
There's excitement in the air. There's anticipation and football is finally back.
"It's an exciting day," Reynolds said. "The drive over, you're like, OK, you know what all is about to come, the tough practices. But once you get on the facility, on the campus, you start to get those butterflies and that energy going."